How to Setup a Marshall Half Stack

Written by ollie wright
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How to Setup a Marshall Half Stack
Plug your electric guitar into a Marshall half-stack for the 'classic' British rock sound (Gitarrenanschluss image by Otmar Smit from

Marshall amplifiers have powered many of the most famous names in rock music, such as The Who, the Small Faces, Led Zeppelin and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It's natural that many budding electric guitarists find themselves drawn to the company's classic British valve sound, and the Marshall 'half-stack' is therefore an extremely attractive proposition. The half-stack utilises just one speaker cabinet, and while this set-up still provides plenty of volume and range of tone, it is not as expensive or as difficult to transport as the unwieldy, bulky, 'full stack' set-up, which is best left to those stadium-rocking professionals.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Marshall loudspeaker cabinet
  • Marshall amplifier head
  • Power cord
  • Speaker cable
  • Jack-to-jack guitar cable
  • Electric guitar

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  1. 1

    Ensure that the power and standby switches on the amplifier head are turned off and that the master volume knob is turned down to zero. Place the head on top of the loudspeaker cabinet. Use the speaker cable to connect the socket on the back of the cabinet to either of the two 'loudspeaker' sockets on the back of the head. Be aware that two output sockets are provided on Marshall heads because some musicians will be using a 'full-stack' set-up of two speaker cabinets.

  2. 2

    Connect the amplifier head to the main electricity supply with the power cord. Use the jack-to-jack instrument cable to connect your electric guitar to the 'input' socket on the front of the amplifier head. Turn on the standby switch on the front of the amplifier head before turning on the main power switch.

  3. 3

    Gradually turn up the master volume knob until you have reached the required level. You may now also use the equalisation ('EQ') controls to ensure that the half-stack produces the sound you desire. The range of EQ control available to you will depend upon the model of Marshall amplifier head you own.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are using any effects pedals, such as a chromatic tuner or a distortion pedal, these will need to be connected in a chain between the head and the guitar input. In this case, additional jack-to-jack cables will be required.
  • In the event of any unwanted noise such as feedback or crackling, check each individual instrument cable in your chain. To do this, plug your guitar directly into the front of the head with each cable. Replace any cable which is found to be faulty.
  • The valves in amplifiers take a while to 'warm up' after the head is switched on. Therefore, don't panic if it takes a moment for optimum sound quality to be achieved.
  • Be aware that Marshall amplifiers are capable of very high volume. It is advisable to protect your ears by using musician's earplugs, which can be purchased from musical equipment stores.

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